The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has found that former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda’s aide, Manoj Punamiya, had paid Rs 25 lakh to some immigration officials at Mumbai to dodge the lookout notice for him and fly out of country five times.
Punamiya had used the Mumbai airport all these times, the ED has found.
The ED, which had issued the lookout notice, has written to the Union Home Ministry requesting it to take action against the concerned immigration officials, who have been identified.
A senior ED official requesting anonymity said a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is likely to probe this matter.
According to the ED, Punamiya flew to Dubai thrice and once each to USA and Sweden between March and July. Immigration authorities at Mumbai airport caught him while he was returning from Dubai after his fifth visit on July 24. The ED suspects Punamiya ran out of luck on his return after the fifth visit because the immigration officials who had helped him earlier were either not on duty or at the counter when he was caught.
The ED, which got details of Punamiya’s visits from his passport, had questioned him after taking him to Delhi from Mumbai. “He told us that for every trip he paid the immigration officials Rs 5 lakh,” the official said.
The ED suspected the involvement of insiders from the day Punamiya was caught because it is difficult to dodge a lookout notice. The moment a flyer’s passport details are fed in the computer at the immigration counter, a message about a lookout notice issued for him, if any, flashes on the screen. “Only officials handling the immigration counter at that moment could allow him to check in by not alerting the concerned authorities,” the official said.
This is a setback for the ED as Punamiya had flown to these countries to sell some of Koda’s properties. Koda, who is behind bars, is being investigated by the ED and Income Tax officials for illegally amassing wealth to the tune of at least Rs 4,000 crore.
Punamiya, who owns Balaji Group (a bullion company) at Zaveri Bazar in Mumbai, had allegedly transferred Rs 1,500 crore belonging to Koda abroad using illegal channels through his firm and other associates.
The ED had last questioned Punamiya in March, after which he had stopped responding to their summons. Following this, the ED issued a lookout notice for him.